From two languages, two soccer balls and only one penalty-kick spot at sold-out Allianz Field’s south end, Minnesota United newcomer Thomas Chacon and teammate Ethan Finlay came to an understanding during Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Mexico’s CF Pachuca.
In any language, Chacon made himself known in an international friendly that wasn’t all that friendly: He wanted to take the penalty shot he created in the game’s 71st minute with his run on the ball that drew a foul inside the 18-yard box.
“I couldn’t understand him too much,” Chacon said in Spanish through an interpreter afterward. “But I asked him if I could take it, and he let me.”
Finlay brought his own ball tucked under his arm to the conversation at the penalty spot while Chacon held one poised as well during a game his team led 1-0 just before halftime and trailed 2-1 not long after it.
With penalty-kick expert Darwin Quintero one of nine or 10 starters resting Saturday or away with their national teams, Finlay normally would be the next option to take one in normal circumstances.
But this wasn’t normal, not on a big stage set for Chacon by coach Adrian Heath. He started Chacon for the first time after the Uruguayan as a second-half substitute in his MLS debut in Kansas City more than two weeks ago.
“I was going to take it, he wanted to take it,” Finlay said. “I just said, ‘Are you sure?’ It’s a great opportunity for him to step up and make his mark. I felt very confident in him doing that.”
Signed last month as the franchise’s first Young Designated Player, Chacon stepped forth and struck the shot he intended — low and left — that Pachuca goalkeeper Alfonse Blanco blocked to protect his team’s lead.
Seven minutes later, Chacon made a play that created Abu Danladi’s game-tying goal. The 5-foot-5 teenager, whom Pachuca players bounced around all night, won a battle for the ball in a tangle of legs.
The bounding ball went directly toward Danladi on a full run, and he scored past Blanco opposite from where Chacon’s penalty-kick attempt went.
“Sometimes when you miss a penalty [shot], it affects you personally,” Chacon said. “But you have to move on as if it didn’t happen. It’s great to be able in some way to help the team.”
Chacon was knocked down more than once Saturday, but he popped right back up and rejoined the fight.
“There were a couple occasions when he got knocked over,” said Heath, a former 5-7 Everton star in England’s first division. “But guess what? When you’re our size, that happens. I know all too well and good.”
Call Finlay, an eight-year MLS veteran, impressed. Finlay said he walked over and said only one thing to Chacon after his unsuccessful penalty kick: Next one.
“You saw his reaction — most importantly over the next 12 minutes — was fantastic,” Finlay said. “He stayed in the game. He continued to fight and find another one for us. That’s the mentality you want, no matter which way it goes.”
Chacon was asked afterward why he wanted to take that penalty shot.
“Because I felt confident,” he said, “and I thought it would have been a great way to have rounded out the game, having played a full 90 here at the stadium, with the fans. It didn’t happen. That’s OK. I’m really excited to have played here and to have played well.”